February 24, 2017

Nang Chong Stories : Life on a Bandong

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This is my friend Chermai doing laundry on our Kapuas Bandong, using water which is pumped up from the Kapuas.

Whenever we visited the village of my maternal grandmother, we would also meet grandmother's tenant who owned a MANDONG boat, which was a Chinese motor launch doubling as a riverine, mobile, sundry or grocer's shop. That was more than 50 years ago.

The word Mandong in Foochow must have come from the Indonesian word Bandong meaning floating house.

Huo Ang was the name of the uncle who owned the mandong floating shop and his wife and children lived on land, renting a unit from my grandmother. They were treated like close relatives.

Whenever Uncle Huo Ang came back, every other evening, we would all go to his boat to buy the last of his ice popsicles or Ais Potong. Grandma supported his business by giving us a few cents to spend. It was lovely to buy things in the small boat.

As the lights faded, Aunty, the wife of Uncle Huo Ang, would wash all his clothes at the back of the boat, drawing water with a pail. She would hang the clothes to dry in the wind. It was all very convenient because in the next few days, Uncle Huo Ang would have freshly washed clothes to wear as he pom pom from one bank of the river to the other, or from one village to another.

I remember he did not have a fridge, but he had a box with ice blocks for fish which he would get from as far away as the river mouth (Rajang). He did not do Daro, Mukah or Dalat as he was not good in languages.

To me it is always a happy time for women to be able to do laundry with lots of water from the river, or from rainwater stored in tanks. I miss washing clothes by the river side.

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